Heinz History Center announces black history programs

PITTSBURGH – As the nation observes Black History Month this February, visitors to the Senator John Heinz History Center can journey through 250 years of African-American history as part of the museum’s award-winning exhibition, “From Slavery to Freedom,” presented by BNY Mellon and funded by the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Education and Cultural Program.

Several new features have recently been added to the long-term exhibit, which chronicles the anti-slavery movement, the Underground Railroad and the impact of 19th century activism on the modern quest for civil and human rights in Western Pennsylvania.

The exhibit has been updated with audio/visual enhancements, interactive stations and new artifacts, including:

An immersive area where visitors can experience the sights and sounds of the freedom seeker experience, including the types of food and plants that were consumed along their path to freedom;

Six interactive touch-screen stations where visitors can virtually explore the 19th century safe houses that were part of the Underground Railroad in Western Pennsylvania, including several locations in downtown Pittsburgh;

A new life-like museum figure of Civil War soldier Alexander Kelly, who lived in Allegheny City and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving the colors of his company in 1864 during the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm in Virginia; and

Newly installed iPads that allow visitors to scroll through digitized copies of manumission, indenture, and freedom papers discovered by the Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds office that help to tell previously untold stories about slave ownership and freedom in Western Pennsylvania.

The From Slavery to Freedom exhibit was recently honored by the American Association for State and Local History as a 2013 Award of Merit winner, the organization’s highest honor. The exhibit was also honored with a 2013 African Diaspora World Tourism Flame Keeper in Cultural Arts Culture Exhibit Award for showcasing an aspect of the African diaspora heritage and history.

From Slavery to Freedom is co-sponsored by PPG Industries Foundation, the University of Pittsburgh, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Double Eagle Foundation.

The From Slavery to Freedom exhibit enhancements are part of several activities to recognize Black History Month throughout the month of February at the History Center:

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 15, Saturday Speaker Series: “The Paradox of American History From Slavery to Freedom.”

Director of African-American Programs Samuel W. Black will address the attitudes of Americans toward the legacy of slavery as part of a special lecture, looking specifically at the history of the abolition movement and slavery in Western Pennsylvania and how it affects today’s opinions.

The Saturday Speaker Series is free with admission and free to History Center members.

For reservations, contact Sandra Baker at (412) 454-6412 or slbaker@heinzhistorycenter.org.

1 p.m. 15, Healthy Heritage Cooking Series, presented by UPMC Health Plan.

The History Center will host Elise “The Diva Chef” Wims, who will share traditional African-American recipes in the museum’s Weisbrod Kitchen Classroom. Seating is limited so reservations are required.

Admission is $20 for general admission and $10 for History Center members. For reservations, contact Sarah Rooney at (412) 454-6373 or serooney@heinzhistorycenter.org.

5:30 p.m. Feb. 26, From Slavery to Freedom Film Series: The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow at the Homewood Library Auditorium located at 7101 Hamilton Ave.

The history center will sponsor a special screening of the film “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow,” which explores segregation from the end of the Civil War to the dawn of the modern Civil Rights Movement.

The film screening will be followed by a discussion of the film’s major themes. Admission is free. Registration is not required.

For information, contact Sarah Rooney at (412) 454-6373 or serooney@heinzhistorycenter.org.